If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I’ve read The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake when it was still a self-published book sometime last year. I immediately fell in love with the characters and the world and was craving more. I “only” had a digital copy of the book, so, when it was traditionally published this year, I went to the shop and grabbed a copy to do something I usually never do – reread, annotate and highlight the entire thing! To my utter surprise, I loved it even more the second time around, but I also know that opinions on the book vary quite a bit.
With this post, I intend to highlight some aspects of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers!) to help you determine whether The Atlas Six is the right read for YOU or not. It’s not a traditional review by any means, so if that’s something you’re more interested in, I recommend you visit my post from last year here. While there were some slight edits made for the newly published version, the majority of what I said still rings true and is an accurate depiction of my feelings towards the story.
Now, let’s get started on me rambling on for way too long!
Blurb according to the publisher:
The world’s best young magicians accept the opportunity of a lifetime.
Six are chosen. Only five will walk away.
The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few . . .
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.
REASONS YOU MIGHT LOVE/HATE THE ATLAS SIX
First things first, this is the opening volume to a dark academia/fantasy trilogy. I want to point this out, because sometimes I wonder if people think it’s a self-contained story, when it’s very much not. In other words, it is to be expected that The Atlas Six does not give you answers to all your questions, might even leave you confused on some subjects and definitely has a grueling cliffhanger.
Other than that, the story is told in third person and from multiple POVs. There’s quite a big cast of characters, but more on that later on. Something that’s very much notable in Olivie Blake’s writing is that everything sounds flowery, yet incredibly sophisticated, but even more so, she heavily focuses on dialogue. This can be both, actual conversations between certain people, or inner turmoil. There will be entire pages of discussions on matters of philosophy and science, which to me felt invigorating, while I can see others struggling to the see the point or importance of it. But that’s the thing, while I read it, I felt like there was a purpose to everything and we learned many things along with the characters. Also, it’s balanced well with humor!
“We study the realm of consciousness because we understand that to decide something, to weigh a cost and accept its consequences, is to forcibly alter the world in some tangible way. That is a magic as true and as real as any other.”
What I struggled with a bit reading it for the first time, but not so much on my reread, was figuring out how much time had passed between certain scenes. This book covers a lot of ground and not always linearly, so that’s something to keep in mind.
It’s definitely written in a witty and clever way with lots of turns and twists. Something I will admit though, is that it felt frustrating to me that the characters didn’t realize one of the biggest (in my opinion *obvious*) turn of events for the majority of the book. Ultimately, in this volume, w get eased into a world. We are meant to hopefully fall in love with who the story is about and to care deeply about what happens next. Because there will be a definite shift in The Atlas Paradox.
Did you ever want a cast of characters where every. single. one of them is morally grey and (probably) also not straight? I present to you: Libby Rhodes, Nico de Varona, Reina Mori, Tristan Caine, Parisa Kamali and Callum Nova
“No one here is good. Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.”
There’s actually more characters in the book that aren’t exactly unimportant, but these six, they really are the backbone of the story! You won’t like all of them, I sure didn’t, but you will appreciate every single one of them for what they bring to the table. There are almost limitless possibilities for shipping, there’s even a threesome somewhere in there, but the bonds are so complex that it goes beyond just romantic attachment.
I think a lot of whether the reader enjoys The Atlas Six hinges on how many characters fascinate them. I personally loved three characters with my entire being, was intrigued by one more, felt disappointed at the lack of page time for a certain someone and just despised the last. That one’s a literal psycho and I cannot. (I was just referring to the above mentioned six leads here.)
It’s easy to sense a certain kind of favoritism the author has, in my opinion, as some characters either got just more chapters in general or the more interesting (to me) plotlines. I don’t know if that will be consistent throughout the entire series, or whether there’s more “to do” for certain characters in the later books. Either way, that favoritism might also make the reader lean more towards those figures.
Something that can definitely go one of two ways were the ample illustrations of the characters between parts of the book. I, for one, adored them! They were done by Little Chmura in the indie version as well as the traditional one, although they are different (yet both gorgeous). I know that certain people prefer to imagine the appearance themselves and not get a certain look “forced” on them. Here’s a taste of what the portraits approximately look like, although I’ll forever be salty we don’t have colored versions in the printed books:
This is probably the point I heard the most criticism about since the traditional release. If you are looking for a book with a very strict and structural magical system, this might not be it for you! Honestly, I love when magic is just woven into the fabric of every day life, when there’s hints of otherness around every corner and you can see that there lies a certain power within some and not others, but it is never explicitly mentioned why that is. In a way, magic is common in this world and if you have it and can monetize it, you’re on top of the food chain. Power is everything and knowledge is power, which is why the Alexandrian Society is so secretive and competitive.
Those who can practice magic as more than just a spell or charm are called “medeians” and they usually have a specialty or tendency in which their power develops. Those powers can present phyiscally (being able to set fire to things, grow plants, etc.) or in a non-physical way (empathy, telepathy, illusions, …), giving each person a completely unique and individual experience with their magical gift.
Aside from people who can do magic, there also exist “creatures” in this world. That’s a point that could have definitely been expanded on and it’s something that regularly took me out of the story a little bit, as there’s only one POV that deals with the matter. “Creatures” (think satyrs, mermaids, etc.) are looked down upon in the magical society and if don’t fit into a pre-classified system, you are forgotten about altogether. I can imagine this being dealt with more in the future, but it was a bit of a lackluster point.
To sum it up, I adore books that just live off of vibes, never-ending philosophical and moral dilemmas with a little science thrown in. To me, that is heaven, but I understand that some people need more. They need certain charms or spells that only work when done just so, which The Atlas Six also has, but definitely doesn’t focus on. This is more of a trial and error way of using magic.
“The problem with knowledge, is its inexhaustible craving. the more of it you have, the less you feel you know.”